By Irene Lysak
Lewis and Bessie Harris and two small children, a daughter and a son, arrived in Coalhurst in the fall of 1924, travelling in their cookcar, pulled by a team of horses. They were fresh from the harvest fields around Nanton, where dad had gone to do harvesting, because of a poor crop at Enchant and Retlaw, where dad and his two brothers, Allan and Harvey, had homesteads.
The prospect of picking free slack coal off the dump was a factor in dad's decision to trade off his team of horses, to Bob Stewart, for three acres of land straight north of the dump. Here dad lowered the cookcar to the ground, and after two additions, the house became almost large enough to shelter five more sons, all born there. In 1942, the folks bought the Johnson House, which sat on main street in Coalhurst, and had it moved to their property.
Dad got a job as barn boss at the mine, on his arrival in Coalhurst, but in the spring of 1927, 28 and 29, he and the family went back to the homestead in Retlaw to try farming again. When we returned to Coalhurst every fall, dad then worked below in the mine, Ed Scullen had take over as barn boss, after dad left. Due to poor crops, dad left the farm entirely, and settled permanently in Coalhurst, where we raised big gardens and chickens, and picked the free slack coal off the dump, until Bob Adams got the franchise to pick and sell it.
We lived through the depression years 1929-39, as a happy family, as we, as children did not know we were so poor. We always had lots to eat, thanks to the garden, chickens and relief, which many families had to seek during those years. We were saddened by the mine explosion in December 1935, and by the death of our brother Harold in March 1936. As children we swam and played in the irrigation ditch, that ran through our property; went on picnics to the river west of town, also to Park Lake; climbed the dump; and sleighed on big drifts in the winter; skated at Wigan slough, or at the town rink, which was behind the Johnson and Pavan homes. We received most of our education in Coalhurst, and our family attended faithfully the Coalhurst Pentecostal Church.
We had good neighbours; to the west, first the Bob Stewarts, then Con Mosers, and Bulo, and later the Schalks; to the east, the Charlie and Henry Wesselmans, the Ed Scullens, and the Flemings; to the north, the Odiands. In later years, Jimmie McInnes was our good neighbour to the east. He was like one of the family, and was so very generous in the use of his car.
Dad (1878-1968) was born in Rockwood, Ontario. Mother (1901-1976) was born in Chorley, Lancashire, England.
We no longer have any property in Coalhurst, but go back to visit friends and to attend Coalhurst Miner's Days.
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